Jewel rested unaffected by the cacophony of squawking cats at the kennel at the Animal Protective Foundation on Friday.
The smoky-colored Persian didn’t seem fazed by the steady procession of young children and mothers filing by her cage. And they didn’t seem to take notice of the 5-year-old female cat who was found abandoned by Lock 9 in Glenville nearly three months ago.
Above her was a cage that appeared empty at first. But hiding beneath a small cushion was Buffy, a smallish, white long-haired cat that was dropped off at the shelter after her owner died in June.
“All it would take is a little bit of love and she’d be fine,” said Marguerite Pearson, the foundation’s director of communications, as she coaxed the shy young cat from its hiding spot.
Jewel and Buffy are among more than 90 cats that have populated the shelter over the past few months. The felines now make up more than half the total number of animals the shelter is capable of caring for on the premises.
Staffers say the recent downtrend in the economy has led to a dramatic increase in the number of cats being left at the shelter. And without an equal increase in new adoptions, Pearson said, they’ll be forced to reduce their numbers through euthanasia.
“As new animals come in, we’re going to need to make some really tough decisions,” she said.
Outreach coordinator Kimberly Jess said the goal is to prevent the donation-funded shelter from having to abandon the emotional and financial effort they put into the cats in their care. She said the cats can sometimes cost up to $300 to care for because of health conditions.
“Aside from the emotional investment, there is a real cost,” she said.
Summer is always a difficult time for the shelter. Jess said the area cat population usually increases during the warmer months, meaning the shelter ultimately receives more strays.
But this year, she said, the number of cats being dropped off at the shelter has surged. On Wednesday alone, the shelter received 21 cats.
Sometimes, they’re found in boxes simply left at the door of the shelter. Workers arriving at the shelter recently found a cat stuffed in a litter box with the words “could not take care . . . please help me” scrawled in marker on the side.
Jess said many of the animals are simply abandoned after their owners can no longer care for them. Other times, she said, local authorities have called the shelter after discovering unwanted pets left behind in empty apartments or foreclosed homes.
“We’re definitely starting to see the impact of the economy,” Jess said.
In an attempt to attract prospective pet owners, the shelter has added Sunday hours, hosted off-site adoption clinics and is offering all its felines for half their normal adoption fee. Pearson said kittens can be adopted for $50 and cats for $37, a cost that covers neutering, vaccinations and testing for feline leukemia.
In addition, Pearson said, the shelter offers food assistance through the Schenectady Inner City Ministry for those who need it. They also offer lists of pet-friendly apartments in the area to assist pet owners planning to move.
Although both Pearson and Jess would be content to attract kitten lovers, they’re really hoping to find someone interested in adopting the older cats. Occasionally, they said, a family will enter the shelter looking to adopt cats like Jewel and Buffy that have been there the longest.
“Those are the angels,” Jess said.